A Potter’s Vessel

Volume Two of the Secession Trilogy, continuing the saga begun in Born Blind.

“Incredibly detailed and thought provoking. Unorthodox yet superbly unbiased and balanced in its historical accounting of an extraordinary what-if scenario….My favorite historical fiction series.” Amazon reviewer

“A cautionary tale … this novel helps us to see a way forward if we are wise enough to make the adjustments needed in order to live in freedom.” Amazon reviewer

The national crisis that erupted in Born Blind intensifies as Tennessee’s petition to withdraw from the Union goes to trial before the Supreme Court. The president and the congress strive to pre-empt the court’s verdict ahead of the elections of 1860.  Does the Constitution dictate that the votes of only five justices can validate Tennessee’s withdrawal?  Or does the vote of the people and the congress trump the power of the judiciary? 

The Scott brothers and their blind slave Gamaliel now operate at the highest levels of government in Washington City and Nashville.  Jerald counsels the president and congress to take up their constitutional tools to oppose secession.  Lee joins Tennessee and the gulf coastal states as they plot to secede without judicial approval or legislative consent.  Gamaliel urges the supreme court justices to acknowledge the Constitution’s flaws even as he challenges the Republican presidential nominee to emancipate his race.

Every check and balance crafted into the Constitution is employed by the competing forces.  Did the wisdom of the founding fathers enable the states to resolve their differences peaceably under the rule of law?  Or did their compromises ensure that this constitutional case will be tried on the battlefield?

The Secession Trilogy – by Jackson S. Riddle

A Potter’s Vessel(Vol. 2, published November 23, 2021)

Time:  1860

Primary locations:

–        Panther Springs, TN (30 miles NE of Knoxville on the Holston River) – prosperous slave-managed farm of the Scott family with two homes, one for Jeremiah and Rachel and another for Jerald and Gamaliel;

–        Nashville, TN –  State Capitol building; Polk Place, home of Sarah Polk, widow of 11th President;

–        The Hermitage – estate of President Andrew Jackson, now owned by the state of Tennessee and site of new U. S. military installation

–        Springfield, Illinois – Illinois statehouse; Western & Ohio Depot

–        Washington City (capital of these United States)  – President’s House; new Senate chamber; new Supreme Court Chamber (old Senate chamber); Arlington House, home of Lee family; home of Supreme Court Justice John Catron; Willard Hotel

Additional characters: 


Charles Stone – free African telegraph operator in Washington, D.C., becomes assistant to Gamaliel


Sallie Polk – great-niece of Sarah Polk

David Davis – Illinois circuit court judge; close advisor to Abraham Lincoln

Jameson Jenkins – Free African businessman in Springfield, IL; neighbor of Abraham Lincoln

Stephen Douglas (IL), Simon Cameron (PA), Jefferson Davis (MS), Andrew Johnson (TN), William Seward (NY), Jesse Bright (IN) – United States Senators

Thomas Corwin – United States Representative (IL)

Born Blind – (Vol. 1, published September 23, 2020)

Time:  1845-1860

Primary locations:

–        Panther Springs, TN (30 miles NE of Knoxville on the Holston River) – prosperous slave-managed farm of the Scott family;

–        Nashville, TN –  State Capitol building; Polk Place, home of Sarah Polk, widow of 11th President of the United States;

–        West Point, NY – United States Military Academy;

–        Kansas Territory – various sites in “Bleeding Kansas”;

–        Washington City – capital of these United States.

Principal Characters:

The Scott Family – all fictional:

–        Jeremiah Scott (b. 1798) – successful planter in East Tennessee; Christian slave-holder supporting emancipation;

–        Sarah Scott – (b. 1806) – Jeremiah’s wife; supportive of emancipation;

–        Rachel Scott- (b. 1780) Jeremiah’s mother, widow of Jonathan; Christian slave-holder and educator for her family; opposes emancipation;

–        Capt. Lee Scott (b. 1826) – Jeremiah’s and Sarah’s eldest son; Mexican War cavalry volunteer; U.S. military academy graduate; served with distinction in Kansas Territory; supports continuation slavery and supports secession;

–        Jerald Scott – (b. 1827) – Jeremiah’s and Sarah’s second son; lawyer and Tennessee state representative; opponent of slavery; opponent of secession, but architect of constitutional secession petition by the state of Tennessee.

The Morris Family – all fictional:

–        Zechariah “Zech” Morris –  (b. ca. 1804) – Slave purchased by Jonathan Scott at auction when he was about six; raised with Jeremiah; now grown and acting as overseer of Scott farm;

–        Eliza “Liza” Morris – (b. unknown) – Zech’s wife, purchased by Jeremiah from neighboring farm to marry Zech; house maid to Sarah and Rachel Scott;

–        Gamaliel “Gam” Morris – (b. 1832) – only son of Zech and Liza; blind from birth; raised mostly by the Scotts in the family manor home rather than the Morris’ cabin by the river; educated by Rachel Scott and Tennessee School for the Blind.

Others – all historical:

–        William Brownlow – (b. 1805) – firebrand publisher and editor of Brownlow’s Knoxville Whig, most widely-circulated newspaper in East Tennessee; ardent supporter of slavery and opponent of secession; fervently anti-Democratic Party;

–        Sarah Childress Polk – (b. 1803) – widow of James K. Polk, 11th President of these United States; slave-holder and owner of plantation in MS purchased by her husband while he was president; continuing political force in Tennessee and Washington City; resides at Polk Place, family mansion in Nashville near the Tennessee Capitol;

–        John C. Catron – (b. 1786) – Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court appointed by President Jackson on the final day of his presidency;  previously served as Chief Justice of Tennessee Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals; married to Matilda Childress, cousin of Sarah Polk; author of many opinions upholding slavery; opponent of secession;

–        Matilda Catron – (b. 1802) – wife of Justice John Catron and cousin to Sarah Polk;

–        Washington Whitthorne – (b. 1825) – Lawyer and Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives; childhood mentee of James K. Polk and adult friend of his widow, Sarah Polk; publicly supportive of slavery; privately opposed to secession;

–        Isham Harris – (b. 1808) – Lawyer and Democratic Governor of Tennessee; plantation owner and ardent proponent of slavery and secession;

–        George Washington Custis Lee – (b. 1832)  Lieutenant, United States Corps of Engineers; graduated first in the U.S. Military Academy class of 1854; eldest son of Captain Robert E. Lee; inherited owner of Arlington House, subject to life-estate in favor of his mother, Mary Anna Custis Lee, and now managed by his father, Rob’t Lee.

–        Harriet “Hal” Lane – (b. 1830) – niece of President James Buchanan, official hostess to the president at the executive mansion, 1857-1860;

–        John W. Head – (b. 1822) – Tennessee Attorney General, tasked with prosecuting the state’s secession petition before the U. S. Supreme Court.

–        U. S. Supreme Court Justices:  Chief Justice Roger Taney, John McLean, James Wayne, Peter Daniel, Samuel Nelson, Robert Grier, Benjamin Curtis, John Campbell, Nathan Clifford;

–        Andrew Johnson, U. S. Congressman from Tennessee;

–        Colonel John James Abert – (b. 1788) – Chief of the U. S. Topographical Corps of Engineers.

Bibliography – Below is a cumulative list of my sources, including those used in writing Born Blind:

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